‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’
(6/’07). This is a piece which consists of a number of ‘imagined
scenes’ for film designed to demonstrate to a director that
I can cover a vast range of music. It also functions as an independent
concert piece and an idea for a film. The concept of ‘...Walter
Mitty’ is a modern remake of the Danny Kaye Classic. Walter
is a daydreamer. He can’t hold a job... he often drifts off
into his dreams and the movie brings these dreams and daydreams to
In ‘Walter Dreams’ and ‘Rustlings
in the Old House’ - Walter was sent off by the clerk
in his cousins realty business to show a house on the edge of town.
The clerk was playing a trick on Walter, who she sees as a sorry character,
and sent him to a house rumored to be haunted and no one has been
able to sell. The clients never show. He falls asleep and in dream
he has wild imaginative adventures in the haunted mansion.
In ‘Alien Shores’ - Walter is dreaming
he’s on an alien planet. He walking along the shoreline.. The
waves have different rhythms and colors. Bright orbs form above the
waves and an ‘alien cetacean’ emerges and tries to speak
to Walter. Finally he realizes and tries to say hello.... then he
awakes. He is on a subway seat and people are giving him strange looks.
In ‘Warrior King’ - Walter imagines himself
a warrior king of ancient mongolia... he emerges from his smoke-filled
tent, dons an over-sized helmet and lead his troops to battle.
of the Ocean City’ ('08 ongoing) - Audio Book Fantasy
Series - thrilling story, dramatic narration and continuous cinematographic
music all by Christopher Kaufman. Here are tracks withdrawn in the
form of movements from a ‘Suite’. ‘...Ocean
City’ tells the tale of young Harl’ut as he comes
of age in a fantasy world. His best friend who shares in his adventures
is Vispushin - a telepathic flying horse. Here you can hear the unique
and fascinating sound-world of this imaginative universe. You will
hear music which evokes images of flight, ocean, adventure, horror,
mystery, battle, romance and delight. On the ‘Audio Page’
you can hear examples of the music with narration - but the composer
invites visitors to listen on the music player and let the imagination
run free. This music represents a style of writing perfect for fantasy
adventure films (animated, hybrid, live) as well as a work which can
be arranged for live performance.
If of interest here are images from
the story which match the music examples: Around the Fire - tales told around the fireside,
Harl’ut remembers battle. Sounds of the Dark
- Harl-ut listens to the sounds of the dark as he ventures into the
depth of an extinct volcano. Down the Tunnel - accompanies
his terrified imaginings as he climbs in the dark down the throat
of the great volcano. ExoticWorld -
he encounters a ‘spiritual phantom’ in the heart of the
volcano once worshipped as a god by his people. Monster Rises
- A monster of the dark rises. Dark Battle - Harl’ut
battles. Cave of Light - His initiation ritual complete,
Harl’ut meets Maia. Ocean Flight - here Harl’ut
flies above the ocean on Vispushin’s back and dives into the
sea from a great height. Flowing Surges - Harl’ut
flies over the plains and sees Princess Bryn’lyn. Sun
Dance - Bryn’lyn delights in the sun and sky. Horror
in theSky - Bryn’lyn is attacked
by the Vorm.
MYTHAGOS - cinematographic
ballet 2006. Mythagos is the forest where all myths run free. This
work is a continuation of my ‘Young Ulysses’
series of orchestral works where I allow my imagination to roam in
mythological territory free from a specific pre-conceived story. The
opening introduces a dryad-like character reaching for the sun In
the ensueing episodes Ulysses finds is lost in the Mythagos forest
and is fleeing the many denizens and shades. In part two Ulysses comes
upon the dryad-woman and they dance together and she transports him
to he shore os his island home.
EARTH - (8/’07) for Alto Saxophone Soloist, Tape of
Western/Eastern Orchestra, Electronic and Natural Sounds. MUSIC FROM EARTH represents a new evolution in my
work. Human politics, nature, eastern and western music and philosophy,
classical form and improvisation, live music and electronic synthesis
are combined. This music is inspired by the work of environmental
leaders. It is a celebration of the beauty of our planet and is a
warning which emanates from the Earth’s core - a Song of the
Earth. I used geography and the elements to delineate classic form. Opening Rift - the work begins at the ‘mid-atlantic
rift’. Earth Rhythm - The music progresses
with war-like rhythms through the ocean. Whale-song is part of the
texture, mixed with symphonic textures and powerful thematic melodies
in the saxophone. Air - Expressive solos interweave
sounds of tree crickets, polyphonic owls, woodpecker, harp, piccolo,
marimba and other sounds. Interlude. Ritual Snake Dance
- You’ll hear saxophone, eastern percussion, piano, mutedtrumpet,
bass, electronic brass and rattle-snake sounds. UrthStorm
- the final movement features lightning strokes, complex driving rhythms,
live ‘cuica’ and the central message of MUSIC
for orchestra and narrator (fall 2001). The title, ISLAND,
is pronounced ‘eeslahnd’, which is how Icelanders say
the name of their country. It was commissioned by Daniel Rieppel director
of the SW Minnesota Orchestra and premiered in Marshall, MN in November
of 2001. ISLAND was composed for narrator and orchestra and in that
regard I worked with Icelandic poet Bill Holm who composed an original
poem for the work and narrated the premier performances. The other
poems for the work were by Icelandic poets from ‘Sybil the Seeress’
through Poets who lived in the previous century. ISLAND celebrates and monumentalizes Iceland - her
land, history and mythology, and tells a clear story the listener
can follow. ISLAND begins a ‘landscape painting in sound’.
One can hear mountains, glacial ridges, volcanic undercurrent, fjords
and the ocean which surrounds this land so inspiring to my musical
imagination. The first ‘movement’ climaxes as the volcano
erupts. Afterwards the journey continues to the shore and ocean. Here
there are shorebirds, a romantic ‘dance’ with a mermaid
and the adventure into the sea begins.
At this point two new aspects join the thread. First, there is a ‘figurative
touch’ where the ancient mariners took to the sea to reach ‘Vinland’
(as is referenced at this point in Bill Holm’s poem). This is
to help connect the listeners to the story: i.e. the ‘adventurers’
are the listeners who experience the tale through the music. Also,
the movement into ocean symbolizes the journey into the subconscious
and the element of mythology becomes prominent.
The Dawn of
Ages - creation myth from the Voluspa.... Sybyl’s Prophesy... Land Such a Land - Ode to Iceland - Hannes Peturson. ...the Glacier Trembled... Mount Skaldbriedur - Jonas
Hallgrimsson. Volcanic climax. The Sun... Sigurour Brieofjoro. Peace after climax. Interlude.... She Came Through the Waves
L.E.R. and from Dance on the Red Sands - Johannes
ur Kotlum. Interlude Ending Embarkation - Bill Holm. Eric and Liefur embark on
the sea. Aegir... from Valhalla - J.C. Jones. The sea god,
disturbed by the adventurers, awakes. Tempest... from Frithiof Banished, Frithiof’s
Saga - Tegnor. This movement is not finished here. Tempest Ending. Calm. The Serpent Iormundandr... Thor’s Fishing
- Oehlenschlager and Iormungandr (The Midgard Serpent: Valhalla) J.C.
Jones. The New Earth... Baldor Dead - Mathew
Arnold. From the mythology ‘The Ragnarok’ where the new
earth rises from the sea after cataclysm... also symbolic of the explorers
- Chamber Ballet (fall 2003). Arriving at the material with which
this music deals (i.e. the events of 9/11) was not a simple process.
It involved the suggestion of friends, personal experiences, and the
opportunity to compose an orchestral piece for a particular event.
I composed THE PHOENIX originally for full orchestra
August 14th through September 20th (2002). The Chamber Ballet version
was composed a year later. The material is presented through the universality
of myth and symbol. After the opening ‘movement’ (‘Clouds
of Memory’), THE PHOENIX focuses on ‘transformation’
(‘The Phoenix Awakes’) and return to restful shadows.
In the first movement, ‘Clouds of Memory’, there is lamentation,
outrage, and mystery. Gongs and related effects create an atmosphere
in which expressive string and woodwind solos create a thick texture
of voices. Passionate outbursts intercede. There is a theme created
from the mathematical relationship between the two towers (6 feet
of separation between the towers translates into two melodies separated
by 6 half steps). Eleven ‘power-strokes’ featuring tubular
bells and gong occur at the end of the first movement and symbolize
the time element involved. There are nine strokes... the Phoenix begins
to awake... and two more strokes follow in echo.
‘The Phoenix Awakes’.
There are many aspects of the Phoenix myth. In this music my imagination
focused on the part of the myth where the Phoenix takes the parent
‘body’ to the ‘Temple in the Sun’ - HELIOPOLIS
- to bury it there. The powerful transforming quality of the sun -
the source of all life - is what is presented here, in the ensemble
-- while the SOLO FLUTE takes the role of the myth.
Whereas the orchestral version of THE PHOENIX ends with a huge climax
where the City of New York wakes up and dances and there are ‘Ivesian
revelries’, fanfares and an exuberant finale, this chamber ballet
version returns to restful imaginative shadows... music from the first
movement is echoed, transformed into a peaceful setting. The music
here reclaims the dark as a place of restfulness and the 'spring of
SPIRIT - for
small orchestra. 1995/2006. A friend and pianist named Wendy Maraniss
- a widely respected teacher and performer in the Ithaca, NY area
- died in a tragic car accident when driving on a Sunday to teach
make-up lessons. I found that she had written a tome of small piano
pieces for children. I offered to organize them and I also composed
‘response’ pieces which I embedded in the new book we
made. SPIRIT is an orchestration of these completely
original pieces which have bits and pieces of her melodies imbedded
in them. Her name is stated in the music as well. The movements are
Spirit, Cool Gust, Beautiful Dream (with her name at end),
Something Good, Ostinato, Spirit2, and Contrary Dance.
- music theater/opera/film (spring/summer 2005). With writer/Director
Dominick Rossetti. This
sweeping and dramatic story takes place during turn of the century
New York. Children work in labor factories and suffer at the hands
of a street gang led by the evil 'Razor'. Lilly and Mary were found
long ago by the Junkman at the seashore. They are mermaids and long
to return to the sea, especially young Mary. Lilly meets Pickles and
falls in love. Pickles and his brother 'Wheezy' have their adventures
as well. 'Wheezy' incurs the wrath of Razor when he defends Lilly
from his bullying and is pursued throughout the story. Essentially
begun as a workshop, "Pickles..." was performed
twice, in review form, at the United Nations (for the benefit events
for the victims of the Tsunami and hurricane Katrina) and then turned
into a film. Visit Dominick's site and you can see footage from the
work featuring the talents of especially John Pinto (as 'Wheezy')
and JessAnne Smith (as Lilly), but there are many young talents documented.
You may also see the trailer for the 'Lightning Bug',
which is an animated film project.
began with a phone call and resulted with Dom and I becoming great
friends. He was best man at my Wedding. Dom's an amazing man and has
had an extraordinary career - visit his site to see that as well.
Listen to 'Lost Child'
and other selections from 'Pickles and the Junkman's Daughter' and
'Lightning Bug' on my Concertmusic Player. TBA
of Lemuria - for full orchestra. 2006. Beginning ‘Lugubrious’
- dark with powerful climaxes - this work a political allegory and
the first of the ‘Young Ulysses series’ written before
Mythagos. Here Ulysses joins Poseidon on an adventure
under the sea to defend the ancient underwater city ‘Lemuria’
from gorgons and mindless tyrants rising from the rift in the earth’s
core at the behest of the shadow king. At the end Ulysses joins his
love on shore. I used the letters of my wife’s name, Maryclare,
in this music (harps, strings) and at the end you can hear Poseidon
return slowly to the depths (brass, percussion). This work has also
been included in libraries for the purpose of licensing in films.
Shadow - violin duo - composed in the summer of 2000. It
was written as I was moving to New York City from Ithaca, New York
where I had lived for about fourteen years. As a result, the music
has a very dynamic quality - the work embraces sonata form and ends
with a ‘country dance’ dedicated to the beautiful countryside
of Ithaca and my experiences there.
This music asks the question, what is the shadow of shadow? ... Bright
powerful sunlight? Openness and clarity? Classical structure? When
combined with consistent powerful emotion you have the interplay of
such polar opposites as inform much of this music.
Simple explanation of over-all form:
The piece begins with two introductions. The first is a dialogue of
powerful expressive gestural melodies, the second is more rhythmic
and brings the music forward. A fanfare-like rhythm heralds the introduction
of the main theme (bottom of page 2). This leads to a phrase climax
and then the exposition repeats with a more contrapuntal realization
of the theme (top of 5). This is followed by a full climax of the
‘A’ section (page 6). The ‘character theme’
area (page 7) has some of the most expressive music of Mercury’s
Shadow. Music from the introduction returns and ‘dialogues’
with the intensely passionate lyrical music. After this the ‘finale’
ensues which is the ‘country dance’ mentioned earlier.
In this there is the option of improvisation - the dance is repeated
and the violinists switch parts, thereby offering the other musician
the option of improvising. It has been performed without improvisation
as well (with the offered written out music) and in this performance
they did not choose to switch at the repeat. The piece ends with a
short energetic coda.
For much of the piece the violins act together, making one instrument.
There is a constant dialogue of musical and expressive elements. The
performance should be very high energy all the way through, especially
in the quieter moments. Mercury’s Shadow is
of approximately 8’ 40” duration.
in Spring - for piano trio (fall '93) was written for the
Ithaca Piano Trio - featuring violinist Lisa Hegyi, pianist Wendy
Maraniss and is especially dedicated to the inspiring friendship of
cellist Sera Jane Smolen. The title is inspired by the poetry of Pablo
Neruda, particularly his Madrigal in Winter and Walking Around.
This work reflects the process of rediscovery. Passionate energy is
combined with clear formal design and direct gesture. The opening
phrase of the work depicts the ‘opening of the heart’
- which can have many connotations - and the resultant outpouring
of positive emotion, as represented in the violin/cello duet at the
end of which the music reaches a climactic peak and then pauses. At
this point the music ‘reinitiates’ -- as do we when we
awake each morning and recreate in our minds each aspect of our life
experience; our dreams, expectations, hopes and memories. From this
point forward the music speaks for itself and can be described as
cresting and receding waves of energy. Madrigal in Spring is concerned with the strong,
sometimes painful emotions which inspire rejuvenation and redefinition.
In the true sense, the term ‘Romantic’ may be applied
to this music in that the ‘emotional intelligence’ is
Quintet - (fall '91) This music begins with Drama and Humor
in direct juxtaposition... true to the spirit of the American music
master to whom this work is dedicated... Thomas ‘Fats’
Waller... it is a piece in which I celebrate joining with the world-at-large
after the growth and development stages undergone in the University
environment... after the initial gestures, the low brass takes on
material from my very ‘serious’ doctoral thesis while
the trumpets make fun...
The first movement of this work has within it the elements of the
whole. After the opening fanfares, there is a soft chorale with expressive
solos.... this becomes the basis of the dramatic second movement -
where the variations come first and the chorale upon which the movement
is based comes last... the last two measures of the first movement
become the basis for the third movement in which instrumental colors
are explored like painting sound with watercolors...
The fourth/last movement is a ‘theme and variations’ of
a tune of Waller with which everyone should be familiar and is introduced
near the end of movement one. The Finale is built of a theme which
I later took to form the basis of the wild dance which ends my work
for full orchestral titled THE PHOENIX: which is dedicated to the
City of New York and focuses on transformation and the celebration
of creativity... In this theme you can hear the music say the name
of New York City. At the end the musicians quote words of the master.
Listen to the finale
(variations on a tune by T. "Fats" Waller) from this work
on Concertmusic Player. ABOVE
Once out of nature I
shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
That is the best definition of an artist that I’ve come across
And such was Wendy Maraniss - one of those singing birds... singing
the music of composers Young and Old. Living and Gone.
A dedicated teacher of young people, Wendy was driving on a Sunday
morning - on a cold winters day in November - to teach make up lessons...
and on a patch of black ice just outside Ithaca, NY she met a tragic
She was a friend and one of the finest pianists I’ve ever known...
too shy to dance at parties, yet not too shy to perform Ligeti for
Ligeti - and to his satisfaction! For her memorial concert in 1997
I performed the premier of this piece - IN MEMORIAM: WENDY MARANISS...
This work uses the letters of her name in the music and celebrates
aspects of her personality... perhaps those that we shared.
for Five Tenor and Four Bass Trombones
...At the Gates...
... combines celebration music from my recent work for Full Orchestra:
-- The PHOENIX --
which is dedicated to the city of New York,
with being a study for future operatic work:
--The Lady Faust -- .
Together they they make -- ‘A Jazz band playing at the gates
First - the psychological state of the listener...
You are at the edge of the pit...
You see boiling magma...
There are clarion calls and demonic beasts...
The Gates of Hell.
Then, at the edge... a Jazzband begins to play...
The demons roil in discomfort...
The Jazzband continues and wins the day...
*World Premier Performed by Haim Avitsur and the CHIRON Trombone Choir,
Christopher Kaufman, conducting. - CHIRON Performing Arts 11/9/04
- THE FLEA Theater, Tribeca, NY
- (‘ripplemusic’)- for piano and chamber orchestra (1990).
This piece was written for my friend Daniel
Rieppel - pianist and professor of music University of Minnesota,
Marshall, MN. Rieppelmusic was composed while a fellow at The MacDowell
Arts Colony. The title bears the dedication to Daniel Rieppel, whose
friendship and unfailing dedication to the forward progress of the
musical arts have served as inspiration for this music. “Ripples’
may also be found in musical terms in, for example, the opening theme.
This work is essentially a concertino in rondo form. The scherzo-like
opening material returns in varied form after contrasting sections.
The returning scherzetti also include spontaneous capricious turns
of events. The formal divisions are: Scherzetto I, Lugubria, Scherzetto
II, Rhytmos, Scherzetto III, CLimactic Waves, Dialogue/Climactic Statement/Cadenza
and Final Quiescence.
for solo piano (spring 2004). Momenta is the plural of momentum. The
title is a play on words. The inspiration for this piece is the music
of Franz Schubert and his ‘Momens Musicale’, especially
#1 of opus 94 (C Major). As a student I played this music. Although
a gentle piece meant to played more delicately, I played it like a
miniature opera with strong emotion. My teacher, understanding that
I was a composer, let me experience the powerful emotions Schubert's
music evoked. It is this appreciation of Schubert’s music which
MOMENTA expresses and pays homage to. You can hear
the tune imbedded in the piece in various guise, especially at the
The intention here is to ‘process’ the gestures of the
classical era through my own creativity in order to create something
new which takes inspiration from the past and yet looks forward --
to express what it feels like to be alive in today’s world...
Also - one may speak of the ‘vibrations’ which arise from
reaching back through time...giving rise to the ‘romantic’
gestures which characterize especially the earlier areas of this music.
A simple formal analyses of MOMENTA:
Introductory gestures (with thematic variation), Fuga (follows cadenza
for right hand), an area I call ‘the way it is... after chasing
Schubert’... (you can hear the left hand chase the right up
to the top of the piano)... an area where the A and B areas are combined
into a ‘harmonic lyricism’ which precedes a recapitulation
and final expression of the theme.
MOMENTA is dedicated to friend and new music champion Daniel Rieppel.
(fall '06) was written at the request of artistic friend and new music
champion Haim Avitsur. A couple of years ago he helped me with the
world premier of my work ...at the Gates... - for
nine trombones, which was the first piece performed at the initial
concert event of CHIRONPerforming Arts
in New York City. Haim also performed at the same event my BRASS
QUINTET as a member of Bombastiq Brass.
I was happy that he called me when he formed a new trio with Dave
Taylor and Nitzan Haroz and Runningmusic is the result.
Runningmusic refers to the fact that I like to compose
music when running in the park. This time that process became a piece
basically in and of itself. As I ran I heard themes from past and
present works run freely through my mind. In Runningmusic
these themes are interspersed with musical episodes inspired by the
act of running and glissando gestures which are fanfare-like, mysterious
The work begins with such running music and introductory glissando
gestures. The themes you will then hear (separated by running music
or glissando episodes are (in order):
• Count on Me: brothers on the rooftop. This
is from a musical theater piece titled ‘Pickles
and the Junkman’s Daughter’. Set in turn
of the century New York, this work features many wild and colorful
characters, powerful drama and fantasy. The theme here stated is when
the two brothers Pickles and Wheezy - after surviving a street rumble
and running all night - end up on a rooftop at dawn and sing of their
love of each other. The writer/lyricist and director for this project
was Dominick Rossetti.
• ...main theme from WAKEN - for viola and
orchestra. • ...theme from ISLAND (pron. Eeslahnd)
for Orchestra (based on Icelandic mythology). • ... then transitional
music and into the jazzmusic theme from ...At the Gates...
for nine trombones. • ... ‘Razor’s Tango’
- the song sung by the evil gang leader from ‘Pickles and
the Junkman’s Daughter’... And then some things happened
which affected the rest of the piece... Hurricane Katrina hit New
Orleans which affected me deeply as I began my life as a musician
and composer when attending the New Orleans Center for the Creative
Arts. So - after the Tango you will hear a muted expression which
begins with a technique which I have personalized where letters are
turned directly into music. So the music here is built of the letters
N-E-W-O-R-L-E-A-N-S. The the second part of the Homage to that city
has a different character... where two familiar tunes are played together
in such a way as to express the humor and passion of New Orleans.
After this part of the piece completes itself - to both tie things
together and to honor my friend Dominick Rossetti who survived a heart
attack at exactly the time I was writing this part of the piece -
I reprise the ‘Brother’s Theme’ Count
on Me. The work finishes with a variation of the finale
theme from BRASS QUINTET which I call the ‘New
York theme’ and is also featured in my orchestral work THE
PHOENIX:dedicated to the city of New York.
I’ve been writing music recently which addresses the concerns
of environmentalism. I believe composers should be concerning themselves
with issues whenever possible, and the result is to have a piece which
is relevant to audiences. The piece I composed before OCEAN is titled
Hudson Valley Music - in it I have musicians performing against a
backdrop of hundreds of natural sounds... sounds which I’ve
gathered and composed with. There is also a visual component to Hudson
Valley Music - for more on HVM visit this project page link: Hudson
Valley Music. HVM tells a story and delivers a powerful message
- at the beginning I composed with ocean sounds and whale-song.
In OCEAN I took the whale-song and turned it into thematic content.
OCEAN begins with the depiction of a seascape - somewhat turbulent,
very passionate - with waves crashing on the shore. In the latter
section, ‘Oil in the Water’ the music expresses outrage
at what we are doing to our oceans. This music deals with the conditions
and issues of our time in a direct and timely way. The expressive
ending sounds an appeal to the audience as if the musicians are channeling
the message of the great intelligent creatures of our magnificent
LISTEN: on Concert
Music Player. ABOVE - Track #62